U.S. men's national team forward Jozy Altidore is in line to return to MLS after Toronto FC has reportedly agreed to a swap with Sunderland for Jermain Defoe on Tuesday, according to TSN.
Defoe, 32, prefers to play in England, according to TSN. He joined Toronto FC last February after five seasons with Tottenham Hotspur. TSN reported four other Premier League teams were interested in Defoe, while reports abroad suggest as many as 10 EPL teams want to sign the English striker.
Defoe scored eight goals in his first nine MLS games and led Toronto with 11 goals this season, but the club finished 11-8-15 and missed the playoffs.
In order for Altidore to secure a return to MLS, he will reportedly have to go through the league's allocation order, which is designated for U.S. national team players signing with the league or players who have left MLS for a transfer fee and are returning. That is a change from recent seasons, in which players whose salary has crossed an undisclosed threshold have been able to bypass the order (which is how Clint Dempsey landed in Seattle and Michael Bradley wound up in Toronto).
The league is also reportedly hoping to avoid another "blind draw" situation for a player's services, such as the tug-of-war over Jermaine Jones that ended with the national team midfielder going to New England instead of Chicago.
On Thursday, MLS commissioner Don Garber reportedly said that the league is in "very advanced negotiations" with Altidore. From mlssoccer.com:
"We are in very advanced negotiations with Jozy to sign a contract and come back to Major League Soccer, and I think that’s very exciting news," Garber said. "We hope to have an announcement with one of our teams as early as tomorrow. You guys could speculate on that, but I’m going to leave the announcement to them.
"Whatever questions you have about what team that is, unfortunately, for as much fun as those questions will be, I’m going to save the excitement for their fans and their market tomorrow."
Toronto FC tweeted this picture on Thursday afternoon:
Altidore's MLS return has been rumored since ESPN's Taylor Twellman reported last week that three teams were bidding for the 25-year-old striker's services. Those teams were reportedly Toronto FC, the New York Red Bulls and Portland Timbers. TFC (sixth) is ahead of the Timbers (eighth) and Red Bulls (15th) in the current allocation order ranking.
Altidore has failed to score in 11 EPL appearances this season. He had one goal against Stoke City in League Cup play in September.
Altidore's MLS debut came in 2006 at the age of 16 for the Red Bulls. He has also played with English club Hull City, Dutch club AZ Alkmaar, Turkish side Bursaspor and Villarreal and Xerez in Spain. Altidore left the Red Bulls in 2008 after a record $10 million transfer to Villarreal.
- Mike Fiammetta